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Gothic Beauty Magazine

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Cabin Chapter 4

Kirsten stared through the window at the slow, drizzling rain that came down that morning, turning the world sullen and hard, mud splashing up beneath the wheels of the passing transport trucks even on the hardest of pavement. They rushed back and forth between their beginnings and ends, and the standing community wielded, moving around them. The diner was not as bright as she remembered; the painting, yellowed and old now, peeling from its canvas above the door, however aged, still showed the same jovial spotted dog. The vase of dusty plastic flowers that sat on the back counter was chipped and glued together now, the pattern marred with the occasional forced piece. The hard, clean edges were gone; but the foundation, stern and unmovable, was still there. The dishes and cutlery were very new; so knew, Kirsten discovered, that the price tags, though washed out and pale, were still stuck to the underside of the cups. Her mother was talking animatedly to the woman at the next table, their gossiping rising and falling in volume as the now middle aged waitress passed back and forth. Kirsten glanced briefly over, attracted by the flash of movement created when her mother gave up discretion in her current position and slid over to her friend’s booth, their heads close together as they carried on their hungry conversation, catching up after a period of years. Kirsten gave the woman a long, hard look; dimly, she remembered a birthday party, and a smiling, brunette birthday girl- the daughter of the woman her mother was talking to.
“I’m just saying, Natasha, you have to be careful now-a-days.” The woman’s chin tilted down as she spoke, and her eyes darted to her friend’s daughter, as if to check if she was listening or not. Her head tilted toward her friend, Natasha whispered urgently. “But what do you mean by weird, Greta? What weird things have been happening? It’s my house, you know!” “I know,” Greta nodded, exasperated, “but it’s hard to explain!” she leaned back for a moment, working her jaw back and forth, trying to figure out what to say. “Well, you know those trees that grow around it?” she said softly, checking to be sure Kirsten wasn’t listening. She wasn’t- the napkin dispenser was much more interesting. “Yes, of course I know about my trees.” Natasha gave her a look of deep annoyance, but the woman pushed on, unperturbed. “They grow way faster than all the others. Last year, a whole sapling showed up five feet into the road overnight.” Natasha’s lip curled up. “Yea, right! What kind of drugs are you on?” Greta’s chin jerked down, her shoulders stiffening up. “Excuse me?” she asked, her eyes flashing dangerously.
Kirsten looked out the window again, the sullen world matching her mood. The prospect of the possibilities her life contained now hovered over her head, teetering dangerously and almost out of control, like an impending rockslide over a desperately busy highway. She shifted her gaze from the highway to the rest of the town. It was old, now, too- the once newly painted storefront which had seemed in childhood to be the most beautiful thing in the world, was faded and cracked as the old painting in the café. The same old barrels stood out front. Once having contained apples, now they looked brittle, pockmarked, one of them with a gaping hole in its side that suspiciously resembled a truck’s front fender. Her eyes carried on down the tiny town street, taking in the disuse and neglect. Hard times had hit here while she was gone. Absorbed in the world outside the window, Kirsten barely noticed when her mother’s friend suddenly marched by the window, her head bent down against the rain, deliberately looking straight ahead rather than at her former friend sitting in the café by the window.
“And we’ll be there until around ten o’clock.” Her mother’s voice broke into her thoughts. “Hmm?’ she asked, snapping her head around to look into her mother’s patient face. “Yea, I thought you weren’t listening.” Her mother grinned widely, laughing at Kirsten’s bewildered expression. “We’re going to a party tonight, at Jen’s, for Sophie’s birthday and we’ll be there until ten o’clock.” Kirsten scowled for a moment- she didn’t like being signed up for things. “When did you decide that?” she asked, her voice sharper than she intended. Her mother let it glaze over, gave her a thin smile and decided to drag the conversation on.
“What happened to Greta?” Kirsten asked suddenly, whipping around in her seat to peer after her mother’s friend. Natasha’s mouth pressed into a thin line behind her back. After a long moment, Kirsten looked back at her mother over her shoulder, her face a mask of polite confusion. Her mother sat rigid in her seat, staring over to the left, deep into the back of the diner. Kirsten turned that way, leaning far over in the booth to see around the edge of the red leather and towards the back. There was nothing there- just empty tables and booths, and a gold fish tank by the bathroom. The walls were faded white, peeling like the rest of the dingy town. Natasha, the table being the only thing between them, saw something completely different. A woman stood here, holding her stomach with both hands. She seemed to scream, her mouth twisted open as if in pain, but no sound came forth. She was dripping wet, water running down her face from her hair, plastered slick against her head- and then she held her hands out towards them, her anguished eyes fixed on the two women. Kirsten, completely unaware, turned back to her mother, concerned. “Mom?” she said tentatively, wondering what was wrong. Natasha stayed rigid, as if she hadn’t heard her daughter at all. Kirsten raised her voice this time. “Mama!” she shouted, slapping her hand down on the table. Natasha jerked- the sound was loud enough to bring the inattentive waitress from the kitchen. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she said enthusiastically, hurrying around the counter with a steaming pot of coffee in her hand. Before they could so much as ask, she had flipped their cups over and filled them. She reached back, jerking a dish of cream packets off the counter, placing it on the table beside their sugar. “Do you know what you want?” she asked quickly, her face a shining beacon in the dingy day. Kirsten eyed her name tag. “Jennifer” was scrawled across it with what looked like permanent marker. The woman’s dress was neat, but the hem had been redone at least once. Her shoes were immaculate, but old. Her mother ordered for both of them before Kirsten even realized what was going on. As the waitress whisked off into the kitchen, she turned back to her mother, a bemused expression on her face. “What am I getting?” she asked, giggling at her own lack of attention. Her mother laughed, her chin tilting back. “Pancakes and eggs,” she said, and lifted her cup to her lips. She clomped it down again, pressing her fingers against her burnt lip. “too hot, don’t drink it yet!” she laughed at herself, and Kirsten joined in. “I could have told you that, look at the steam!” she giggled, moving her cup out of the way as the waitress appeared again, putting two bowls of fruit down in front of them. “We didn’t order fruit?” Natasha said, making it sound more like a question. “Comes with the meal!” was the quick answer as the woman disappeared again. Natasha looked quickly to the back, but the woman was gone- complete with the puddle of water that had been around her feet. Kirsten looked down. The bowl was almost exclusively Strawberries, and it looked delicious. Silence fell over the two again as they began their meal, Natasha glancing to the back of the restaurant every few minutes, a worried expression on her thin face.